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Primacy in the Church from Vatican I to Vatican II

An Orthodox Perspective

Maximos Vgenopoulos

Publication Year: 2013

The primacy of the bishop of Rome, the pope, as it was finally shaped in the Middle Ages and later defined by Vatican I and II has been one of the thorniest issues in the history of the Western and Eastern Churches. This issue was a primary cause of the division between the two Churches and the events that followed the schism of 1054: the sack of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204, the appointment by Pope Innocent III of a Latin patriarch of Constantinople, and the establishment of Uniatism as a method and model of union. Always a topic in ecumenical dialogue, the issue of primacy has appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle to the realization of full unity between Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Christianity.
In this timely and comprehensive work, Maximos Vgenopoulos analyzes the response of major Orthodox thinkers to the Catholic understanding of the primary of the pope over the last two centuries, showing the strengths and weaknesses of these positions. Covering a broad range of primary and secondary sources and thinkers, Vgenopoulos approaches the issue of primacy with an open and ecumenical manner that looks forward to a way of resolving this most divisive issue between the two Churches. For the first time here the thought of Greek and Russian Orthodox theologians regarding primacy is brought together systematically and compared to demonstrate the emergence of a coherent view of primacy in accordance with the canonical principles of the Orthodox Church. In looking at crucial Greek-language sources Vgenopoulos makes a unique contribution by providing an account of the debate on primacy within the Greek Orthodox Church.
Primacy in the Church from Vatican I to Vatican II is an invaluable resource on the official dialogue taking place between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church today. This important book will be of broad interest to historians, theologians, seminarians, and all those interested in Orthodox-Catholic relations.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

It is with great delight that we welcome the publication of Primacy in the Church From Vatican I to Vatican II: An Orthodox Perspective by the Grand Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Very Reverend Doctor Maximos Vgenopoulos.
Indeed, we greet the volume at hand not only as being the result of the devoted scholarly research by one of the promising younger theologians of our Church, but also as the focus of imperative debate on one of the most divisive theological issues in relations between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches...


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pp. ix-2

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pp. 3-18

The primacy of the bishop of Rome as it was finally shaped in the Middle Ages and later defined dogmatically by Vatican I and II has been one of the thorniest issues in the history of the Western and Eastern Churches and has always been a topic in ecumenical dialogue. It appears to be an insurmountable obstacle to the realization of full unity between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches...

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1. Vatican I

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pp. 19-40

In this chapter my intention is to present the teaching of Vatican I on the jurisdictional primacy of the bishop of Rome. I will present the main points of this teaching, which led to the reaction of Greek Orthodox theologians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which I will discuss in chapter 2. I will also review the historical context in which Vatican I took place and which, inevitably, had an impact on the council itself...

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2. The Aftermath of Vatican I

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pp. 41-71

This chapter will consider the main points of the arguments contained in the official Greek Orthodox encyclical letter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued in 1895, as well as those of selected Greek Orthodox theologians from the same period. I will present the arguments invoked by Archimandrite Grigorius Zigavinos (1835–1910), who was professor at the Theological School of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the island Halki; John Mesoloras (1851–1942) and Anastasios Kiriakos (1843–1923), who were both professors at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Athens; and Spiridon Papageorgiou (1850–1918), a theologian from the Greek island of Corfu, against the main points of the Roman Catholic teaching on papal primacy described in the previous chapter...

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3. Vatican II

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pp. 72-95

In this chapter we will first look at the main theological movements, namely the ecclesiological and liturgical movements, that influenced Vatican II’s doctrine on the Church and on papal primacy and episcopal collegiality, and then we will present the doctrine itself. As we will see, the ecclesiological movement developed a eucharistic ecclesiology that consolidated the biblical and patristic linkages between the Eucharist and the Church. In this perspective the Church came to be understood not in juridical categories—as a pyramidal hierarchical structure in which officeholders had jurisdiction over the members and the Vicar of Christ (the pope) was considered as ruler of the whole—but rather as a communion, based on the idea of eucharistic communion, and indeed as a communion of local churches...

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4. Orthodox Reactions to Vatican II

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pp. 96-140

This final chapter is divided into three sections, the first of which is divided into two parts. In the first of these sections, we will examine Karmiris’s general appreciation of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church, while in the second part the main lines of Karmiris’s argumentation against Vatican II’s renewed understanding of primacy within the context of its teaching on episcopal collegiality will be analyzed...

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General Conclusions

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pp. 141-156

We have examined the reactions of Greek Orthodox theologians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to papal primacy as defined at Vatican I and II. In considering the arguments invoked by official patriarchal letters and by certain Greek Orthodox theologians directly or indirectly against the teaching on the papal primacy expressed at the two councils, we have identified two distinct groups of theologians, and we saw that the critique offered by one group lacked coherence and authenticity, as was noted by the second group...


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pp. 157-196


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pp. 197-208


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pp. 209-217

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090982
E-ISBN-10: 1609090985
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804736
Print-ISBN-10: 087580473X

Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 879551889
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Primacy in the Church from Vatican I to Vatican II

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Catholic Church -- Doctrines.
  • Catholic Church -- Relations -- Orthodox Eastern Church.
  • Orthodox Eastern Church -- Relations -- Catholic Church.
  • Episcopacy.
  • Popes -- Primacy.
  • Orthodox Eastern Church -- Doctrines.
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